Runic Tourism

Your intrepid Norse and Viking rambler has just returned from a runic ramble in Sweden, where perfect weather and congenial and learned company enhanced the already delightful process of the close study of runic inscriptions in a variety of media and with a variety of more or less comprehensible texts. Among many other delights, I offer you (left) a photo of what might be the only memorial inscription on a rune stone commemorating the commissioner’s aunt. Fathers and sons, yes frequently; mothers and daughters, not so common but still quite a few; sisters and uncles are rare but there. But I think this is the only auntie, or father’s sister in this case (if indeed that is what the text says – half the fun of runic inscriptions is that we are not always 100% sure), in the Swedish Viking Age corpus. Hurrah for aunties everywhere!
The runic theme of this short trip was enhanced by the only partially deliberate decision to stay in the Hotel Svava in Uppsala, possibly the world’s only runic-themed hotel. As you can see from the photo to the right, every bedstead in the place is enhanced by a runic inscription – the runes are proper, but the message is in modern Swedish (I leave you to spell out the advertising message for yourself). A very distinguished runologist on the ramble admitted to me that she had devised the inscription many years ago when the hotel opened – despite the occasional ribbing she has received, I think it’s splendid. It did make me wonder about other runic hotels. I do remember seeing a splendid runic banner at the Kettletoft Hotel in Sanday, Orkney, when I was there in I think 2000. I wonder if it’s still there?
But the best bit of runic tourism is surely the airport at Kirkwall. Not only are the runes proper Viking Age ones, the spelling is pretty good (the place was called Grimsetter when the RAF built an airfield there in 1940), written in pretty good runic orthography as krimsitir (though in Old Norse it would ideally be krimsitr, or setr with a dotted i-rune). I haven’t found out which runologist, if any, was responsible for this one, though. Now why can’t the baggage tags be in runes when you fly to KOI-Kirkwall?

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